March 20, 2020 / 4:23 AM / in 16 days

Indian stocks fall in choppy trade as coronavirus fears linger

BENGALURU, March 20 (Reuters) - Indian shares gave up early gains on Friday to fall for a fifth straight session, as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down much of the world and policymakers across the globe launched fresh efforts to stem the economic fallout of the outbreak.

World stocks recovered from steep falls after central banks in Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States launched a fresh wave of stimulus to help businesses battered by a near halt in economic activity due to the virus outbreak.

But markets failed to sustain much of those gains, as both U.S. futures and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan turned lower.

India’s NSE Nifty 50 index rose as much as 2%, but was down 0.28% at 8,240.80 by 0410 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex was lower by 0.46% at 28,148.58.

“There is a fear factor among both the buy and sell sides. We are still not out of the woods,” said Rusmik Oza, head of fundamental research at Kotak Securities in Mumbai. “We have suggested that clients keep buying because we are close to the bottom.”

Initially aiding sentiment on Friday were reports that the U.S. Senate was debating a $1 trillion-plus package that would include direct financial help for Americans and that China was set to unleash trillions of yuan of fiscal stimulus.

The virus, which originated in China, has spread quickly around the globe, claiming thousands of lives and hammering economic activity.

The carnage in the markets has taken India’s blue-chip Nifty 50 index 33% below its Jan. 20 record intraday high, while India’s small-cap and mid-cap shares have fared no better, falling roughly 29% since the start of 2020.

The pandemic also threatens to chip away at India’s economic growth, already languishing at multi-year lows, as it forces more offices and factories into lockdown.

BofA Securities on Thursday cut its June-quarter growth projections for the country by 90 basis points to 3.1% as it forecast a global recession as shutdowns continue and corporate balance sheets take a hit.

Meanwhile, the rupee, which sunk to a new all-time low of 75.3525 against the dollar on Thursday, was stronger by 0.15%. (Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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